“I am strongly asking everyone to assist me in doing everything to defend against this disease by obeying the directives of those in power along with the medical doctors, and I am strongly urging that people go in large numbers to vaccination sites and to stop gathering in places where there are large amounts of people, and to report those infected with the disease to government officials.”—Princess Regent Lili‘uokalani
On January 20, 1881, King Kalākaua and his royal suite left Honolulu for a journey around the world. He designated his sister and heir apparent, Princess Liliʻuokalani, as Regent. Article 33 of the 1864 Constitution provides, “It shall be lawful for the King at any time when he may be about to absent himself from the Kingdom, to appoint a Regent or Council of Regency, who shall administer the Government in His name.”
The year 1881 marked the fifth instance that the smallpox virus entered the Hawaiian Kingdom. Its first encounter was in Honolulu in 1853 where 16,500 people were infected and 5,000 died. This national crisis prompted the Hawaiian Legislature to pass An Act to Make Compulsory the Practice of Vaccination Throughout the Hawaiian Islands on August 10, 1854.
When smallpox was detected, fear rippled throughout the native Hawaiian community in Honolulu bringing back memories of the ravage it caused in 1853. This prompted a meeting at Kaumakapili Church on Saturday February 5, 1881, comprised mainly of aboriginal Hawaiian subjects. On February 12th, the Saturday Press reported:
On Saturday last a meeting was convened at Kaumakapili to discuss particularly the present action of the Board of Health regarding the smallpox that has been recently introduced into Honolulu. Early in the afternoon, Mr. John Sheldon, and the Honorable S.K. Kaai mounted the rostrum at the fish market, inciting the natives to flock together and join in the demonstration. Shortly after seven o’clock the church began to fill. Mr. Kaulukoa was appointed chairman. Mr. John Sheldon read the resolutions which had been drawn up, and Mr. Kaai seconded them. The whole of the proceedings were conducted in the Hawaiian language, and frequent bursts of applause, emanating from interested parties, amongst whom were the ex-Minister of Finance, Rev. Kuaea, and the Honorable J. Keau, greeted the speakers when denouncing the present Ministry and the Board of Health. A Committee of twelve was appointed to wait upon H.R.H. the Princess Regent…
On February 16th, the Princess Regent Lili‘uokalani very eloquently responded to the committee’s concerns, which was published by the Ka Elele Poakolu newspaper. Her response was in the Hawaiian language but an English translation has been provided by Awaiaulu, Inc., on Instagram. The Ka Elele Poakolu wrote:
(Here below is the response of the Princess Regent to the Resolutions that the Citizens presented before her through their Committee of Thirteen, calling for her royal compassion to heed the citizens’ humble and heartfelt cry. We are asking for this to be carefully read and for this royal sentiment to be clearly understood.)
You have presented before me some resolutions made at a citizens’ meeting regarding the smallpox that is being seen amongst us, which is something which stirs worries within us all.
This disease has devastated nations in ancient eras past, and it is something that we cannot presume to avoid in all instances. The first time this disease arrived to us was in 1853, and at that time people did not realize the terrible nature of this disease, and a great deal of suffering was witnessed. However, when it arrived again in 1863 and 1872, the nation was spared because some of them had contracted the disease in 1853, and so they were more agreeable in obeying the advice to act to fend it off; it did not spread extensively, and it also did not spread very much during its last arrival in 1877.
This past December, a ship arrived from San Francisco, not realizing there was an infected person aboard; a passenger disembarked, and afterward, his smallpox came about.
Even through cautious safeguards, this type of unfortunate coincidence cannot be avoided, and it is evidence that we are to be stricken by this disease just as other nations are. The disease did not spread further from this person.
The second instance was the steamship Cassandra from China, and from this ship a person with smallpox was smuggled ashore even though the captain reported that no one aboard the ship was sick. This person was concealed aboard the ship and not reported to our officials, and he was brought ashore in the night. There were strong steps taken to protect the health of the public, and because of those actions, there was no tragedy resulting from this person.
All of the infected people that we have recently seen have been confirmed to be from the steamship Quinta that arrived on the 12th of January, reporting that there was no disease on board. There were four people who had died while at sea, and after carefully questioning the captain, he reported that they had not died from any contagious disease, and there was no source of disease at that time that would lead one to think that his report was false.
Only after this ship departed, some of the people who had deserted that ship reported that the people who had died had succumbed to smallpox, and that there were two Chinese on King Street who had mild symptoms of this disease. In my understanding, the disease was not seen among the Chinese passengers of this ship outside of these two Chinese, and the disease spread to our nation from the crew of that ship.
So, as all of you may realize, the false reports of the ships’ captains cannot be defended against by the careful guardianship of our security officials.
I am strongly asking everyone to assist me in doing everything to defend against this disease by obeying the directives of those in power along with the medical doctors, and I am strongly urging that people go in large numbers to vaccination sites and to stop gathering in places where there are large amounts of people, and to report those infected with the disease to government officials.
Know that my heart is filled with sadness, and that I am hopeful that this disease will not spread amongst us. I am doing, and will continue to do, everything within my power to prevent its spread, and I am strongly asking everyone to assist me in doing everything to defend against this disease by obeying the directives of those in power along with the medical doctors, and I am strongly urging that people go in large numbers to vaccination sites and to stop gathering in places where there are large amounts of people, and to report those infected with the disease to government officials.
In this matter, I want it to be clearly understood. I know for a fact, that in these past days, some people have attempted to, and successfully taken people and hidden them in outer districts where they cannot be aided by doctors, and those places have become areas where the disease is spread amongst those who might not have otherwise been infected by the disease.
I ask all of you, my friends, what is the benefit of taking careful guard, if this ignorant offense of concealing people who are infected with this disease is committed?
I again ask all of you, and I encourage all of you, to urge everyone to report every person who is infected with this disease, to assist those who have been assigned to guard the nation, and to know that I am doing everything that I can so that everyone can receive the fine help that I am receiving.
Liliʻuokalani, Princess Regent